On the Anniversary of the Evidence Act

Author: Leigh Lynes

People working at laptops

It’s been a year since the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, championed by former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), was signed into law. This legislation--commonly known as the “Evidence Act”--encourages the use of evidence in policymaking to better serve vulnerable Americans. It established data departments and personnel within top federal agencies, allowing for greater, more secure access to data.

The Act was born from the collaborative work of policymakers, data and privacy experts, program administrators, and academic researchers, including LEO co-founder and director Jim Sullivan.

Administrative datasets contain a wealth of information about important social and economic outcomes. By improving data privacy and security measures and giving nonprofit and government organizations greater data access, the Act helps equip researchers and policymakers to better answer important social questions. This is significant in this time of heightened political polarization; evidence makes bipartisan policymaking easier and more actionable.

Many federal agencies, however, are still working to fully implement the mandates of the Act, and valid concerns around data sharing and privacy continue to inhibit policy research. In light of these challenges, many county and local governments, including LEO partners in King County (WA) and Santa Clara County (CA), are establishing their own databases to generate evidence and improve their outreach. Ongoing communication between service providers, state and local governments, and the federal government is critical in the fight for evidence, and ultimately, in the fight against poverty. 

At LEO, we are fighting for a culture change in the way our nation tackles poverty. One of our biggest contributions is helping nonprofit and local government organizations rigorously evaluate their programs and use the evidence to double down on successful interventions and share them with others in need. How can services be improved to better meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable? Where can we invest our resources to have the greatest impact? How can we best address poverty at its root? The Evidence Act’s push to improve data security and access, build evidence, and encourage informed action is critical for answering these questions and creating opportunities for those who need them most.